As the largest city in one of the fastest growing states, Miami is home to constantly evolving neighborhoods, and countless new tourist attractions. Some of this can be seen in the relatively recent development of Wynwood as a craft beer district, and the rise of Brickell Key as the center for nightlife in the city. Both neighborhoods have changed dramatically in the last decade alone, and are now home to some of the newest Miami destinations. Older attractions in Miami’s more classic neighborhoods can easily be identified by the more vintage styles of architecture; Art Deco in Miami Beach, and the cross between Art Deco and Mission Revival in Little Havana, a district often referred to as the Cuban Capital of the United States.

Little Havana was once one of many Miami neighborhoods influenced by the confluence of Moorish architecture from places like Cordoba, and the Mediterranean style buildings that can be found in cities like Barcelona. An influx of middle class Cuban exiles in the 1960s resulted in a change to the ethnic character of the area as well as a concerted effort to preserve the traditional Spanish-syle buildings that line the streets.

Today, Little Havana is home to quintessential Miami institutions like Versailles Restaurant, Domino Park, and Ball & Chain Restaurant and Nightclub. Ball and Chain began as a saloon in the 1930s, making it one of the oldest bars in Miami. Sitting here, and enjoying a cocktail and a Cuban Sandwich is an opportunity to see live entertainment, enjoy good food, and experience a lounge where South Floridians sipped similar drinks and ate street food for almost one hundred years.

The mojito is considered to be a core Caribbean cocktail, and a beverage especially connected to the culinary culture of Cuban and Miami. Ball and Chain uses Bacardi Carta Blanca, a white rum considered to be the quintessential rum for a mojito due to its origin in Cuba and a dry, herbal character that perfectly compliments the fresh mint and zesty lime.

Bacardi Mojito

A Bacardi Mojito

Bacardi rum is used extensively across their cocktails. Part of this is because it’s one of the most popular rum brands in the United States, but also because the company has earned the loyalty of the Cuban exile community. In the early 1960s, Bacardi moved their North American headquarters from New York City to Miami so that they could help support the growing Cuban population in Florida. Refugees from the island often arrived in Miami with no belongings,so Bacardi provided them with both employment, and a place to stay in Little Havana. Decades later, it’s still the most popular rum in Little Havana and used in cocktails in the many bars on Calle Ocho. Bacardi Carta Blanca again comes together with crème de banane, coffee beans and lime in a blended beverage called the Bananita Daiquiri. Bacardi 8 Year Old Rum is brought together with tobacco infused bitters, simple syrup and a cigar grade tobacco leaf garnish in the Calle Ocho Old Fashioned.

Bacardi Ocho Old Fashioned

Calle Ocho Old Fashioned

Aged rum also forms the base of the Coco Capa, a spirit-forward combination of rum, guava nectar, and coconut cream that comes across like a guava-infused Coquito. This is one of many Ball and Chain cocktails that is perfect for guava lovers. There is also the Pastelito Daiquiri, a take on the daiquiri that is inspired by the pastries filled with cream cheese and guava jam that are popular at Cuban bakeries all across South Florida. Less creamy and more fruity is the Guava Sangria; a blend of Spanish red wine, with aged rum, and the juice of fresh guava and pineapple.

Ron Zacapa Guava and Coconut Cocktail

Coco Capa Cocktail is one of many with Guava

The aperitivos at Ball and Chain are classic Latin American street foods served in small sizes. There is elote made with slow roasted corn that is smothered in chipotle cream, fresh cilantro, and crumbled cotija cheese. Alongside this, they serve chicharones seasoned with lime zest and chiles, and even a tropical seafood ceviche that uses local conch, and jumbo shrimp.

Like most places serving food along Calle Ocho, the main attraction at Ball and Chain is their Cuban Sandwich. They do not serve a traditional Cuban Sandwich, but rather a related dish known as a Medianoche. A Medianoche uses many of the same ingredients as a typical Cuban Sandwich; mojo pork, mustard, ham, swiss cheese, and pickles. The difference is that instead of the crusty Cuban bread, the softer and slightly sweeter medianoche roll is used. The medianoche was once a popular midnight snack in Havana during the golden age of the Cuban cocktail, served by street vendors all across the city. At Ball and Chain, this sandwich is made with sweet ham, slow cooked pork, and a house-made aioli mustard that compliments the nuttiness of the Swiss cheese that is slathered on top. The entire sandwich is pressed, toasted and served alongside thin cut fries.

Miami Cuban Sandwich

Cuban Sandwich with Fries, Chicharrónes, and Elote

Like many restaurants on Calle Ocho, it’s easy to write Ball and Chain off as just another tourist attraction in Little Havana, and that view is not entirely incorrect. A simple step off the street into this bar however, changes this perspective. Ball and Chain has existed here for almost a century, surviving changes in trends and more, and for good reason.